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Airfest 2000 cleared for takeoff

Displays on the ground and demonstrations in the air will be featured at the annual event.

[Times photo: Bill Serne]
The Thundersbirds thunder past MacDill Air Force Base during a practice run on Friday.

By BABITA PERSAUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 1, 2000


TAMPA -- Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to turn out today and Sunday for AirFest 2000, MacDill Air Force Base's annual open house.

It's one of the largest air shows put on by the Department of Defense, with more than 50 aircraft on display. Dozens more will be in the sky, including flybys by Air Force F-15 Eagles and A-10 Thunderbolt II fighters.

Gates open at 8 a.m. Displays close at 5 p.m. Admission is free, and food and beverages are sold in stalls throughout. There is plenty of free parking available on base. Handicapped parking is available near Hangar 1.

There are some restrictions, though. Coolers, pets, glass bottles, skateboards, bikes and in-line skates are not allowed. There's not much shade, so air show officials advise toting protective gear and sunscreen.

The schedule is identical for both days, and the lineup is subject to change.

Here are some highlights:

9:30 a.m. -- Opening ceremony, including a KC-135 flyby.

10:05 a.m. -- F-117 flyby. Unofficially known as the Nighthawk, this Stealth fighter was designed to go undetected by radar.

10:40 a.m. -- Red Baron Show. Open-air cockpit planes reminiscent of aviation's earlier days.

12:10 p.m. -- B-52 or B-1 lyby. Long-range heavy bombers.

12:50 p.m. -- A-10 Thunderbolt II demo team. These aircraft are maneuverable at low altitudes for support of ground troops.

1:05 p.m. -- F-15 Eagle fighter jet demonstration team.

2:25 p.m. -- U.S. Special Operations Command Parachute Team, MacDill's own team of highly skilled volunteers from Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines assigned to Special Operations Command at MacDill. 3 p.m. -- The Thunderbirds. World-famous Air Force aerial demonstration team will perform demonstrations on the ground and in the air.

MacDill Air Force Base is in south Tampa at the tip of the Interbay Peninsula.

There are four entrance gates: S Dale Mabry Highway, S MacDill Avenue, S Bayshore Boulevard and S Manhattan Avenue.

Also on Saturday, HARTline will operate shuttle buses from Britton Plaza on S Dale Mabry Highway to the Dale Mabry Gate beginning at 8:30 a.m. The buses will run as frequently as traffic allows.

On Saturday and Sunday, HARTline also will run shuttles from Gandy and Manhattan to the Manhattan Avenue gate beginning at 10:30 a.m.

For more information on the shuttles, call (813) 254-4278. For more information on AirFest 2000, look at the Web site at http://www.macdill.af.mil or call (813) 828-4163.

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